New Report Compares Salafi-Jihadism and White Supremacist Extremist Ideologies

Rise of the Reactionaries: Comparing the Ideologies of Salafi-Jihadism and White Supremacist Extremism, the latest report from the Program on Extremism at George Washington University and the National Counterterrorism, Innovation, Technology, and Education Center (NCITE), explores the ideological similarities between Salafi-jihadism and right-wing white supremacist extremism.

Jihadists are the ideological fringe of the wider Islamist movement, while white supremacist extremists emerge from more mainstream, right-wing white identity and supremacist politics. They are both reactionary political movements. They treat any form of social or political progress, reform, or liberalization with great suspicion, viewing these chiefly as a threat to their respective ‘ingroups’. In this sense, jihadists too are extreme right-wing actors even if they are rarely referred to in such terms. Both movements share a similar underlying diagnosis for the ills of their respective societies, placing blame primarily on the forces of liberal progress, pluralism, and tolerance.

The report identifies the following 5 key ideological similarities between the two groups:

    1. Chauvinist collective identity
    2. Conspiracism
    3. Antisemitism
    4. Necessity and legitimacy of violence
    5. Utopianism

The authors go on to provide an in-depth assessment of how each of these five traits are manifested in each of the movements. They conclude with posing additional important questions for consideration:

Further studies are needed on more technical aspects of this comparison, such as the shared traits and differences between how each movement pursues violence and terrorism. Are they learning from each other? If so, how and why? Do their shared ideological traits mean that they should be treated similarly in official counter-radicalization efforts, or do their differences mean that unique approaches are needed for both? Perhaps most importantly in the context of responding to the threat of jihadism and the extreme right is why movements which offer such simplistic, divisive, and violent visions of the world are experiencing relative success in attracting adherents today. This is worth investigating further to understand how to mount an effective response. More fundamentally, it also forces us to ask why an increasing proportion of Western society is attracted to such reactionary politics.

For more information on topics related to this report, please visit the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL) to view additional publications from the Program on Extremism, and reports on Extremism housed within the collection.

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